The Fundamental Role of Authority

Authorities are often viewed as being an oppressive force in our lives. But the true role of authority is protective in nature — to protect those that are under their care from harmful and evil influences…


5 thoughts on “The Fundamental Role of Authority

  1. Ray,
    I really enjoyed this session. Your illustrations were quite insightful and I look forward to the next session.


  2. The Proper Exercise of Authority

    “Becoming proficient in the proper exercise of the authority entrusted to you is a function of the merging of the knowledge and understanding of your authority with the will to regularily and properly exercise that authority.”
    John R.”Barney” Barnes

    The fundamental role of authority is often misunderstood in our modern culture. This lack of clarity of this role can be the genesis of a lack of understanding/respect for constitutional and moral authority. The resultant corrosive effect upon our society appears in local as well as national headlines on a daily basis.

    In my view a root cause of all this cultural malaise is the improper “exercise of authority” by those entrusted to act “under the authority” of their jurisdiction. Perhaps we should start with a couple old fashioned definitions from Webster’s. “Exercise”, in the verb form is “to discharge, wield or exert as in influence or authority; to set in action or employ actively.” Our other operative word “authority” is “legal or rightful power; a right to command or act; jurisdiction.”

    As we noted earlier today’s headlines are replete with the chaotic and sometimes tragic episodes of our human kind that have a common back story involving authority. Most folks would agree that for the family, our basic unit of organization, to be successful and have integrity that discrete parental authority functions must be “properly exercised”. The many documented cases of child abuse as well as parental abandonement of basic responsibilities required for child rearing, e.g. to love, to instill values, to set boundaries and to invest quality time is demonstrative of the failure to “properly exercise parental authority”.

    A major cause of the weakening of many of our other vital cultural institutions is this same failure of duly constituted authorities to “properly exercise their authority”, their legal and rightful power in their particular jurisdiction. Some of these would include government at all levels, business, finance and we must not forget church and religious organizations. These various foibles (say within the past year or two) clearly demonstrate an improper (careless or arrogant)exercise of authority or a reticent and passive assumption of their essential responsibilities within their respective jurisdictions.

    Authority is best understood when we simply view it as delegated power as contained in the principle of “acting under authority”. Earlier in my professional life as a naval officer, aircraft commander and commanding officer it was essential that I have a clear understanding of my authority and its boundaries. Whether in combat, at sea or shore command I could never represent myself because when I acted or failed to act I clearly represented “higher authority”. Ultimately I represented the will of the American people as established by the Constitution, US Naval Regulations, various treaties, directives, and the policies and procedures of that particular command.

    I was always aware that a failure “to act” within the boundaries of my authority could endanger lives, weaken my command or bring discredit upon myself and the US Navy. On the other hand I was confident that if I simply exercised my authority then I would have done my duty. This simple maximum could find application in the many realms of our culture today.

    Authority is a sacred trust, and endowment if you will, to be exercised with alacrity and confidence in the preservation of things we cherish and hold dear. Some of these would include…a strong America, our individual liberty, peaceful neighborhoods, vibrant economy, thriving families, and a general feeling of goodness the timeless companion of greatness.

    Submitted by Eye of the Eagle

  3. Great video. You have made a ringing and convincing case for submission to legitimate authority. I think keeping an eye on the law would help many people avoid many problems, including police officers, politicians … all kinds of people.

    Thank you also for your post on my blog. Let me repay you by asking you a difficult question about the submission to authority that you advocated in this video: What happens when some of the sources of authority that you cite, such as the Constitution, the civil and police authorities, etc. are in conflict with each other or with community standards?

    Let me put 3 examples to you:
    1 – Conflict with community standards… In the 1850s many police officers refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act passed by the Congress. (

    2 – Conflict between the Courts and the Police… In recent years many law enforcement professionals have tracked citizens’ cell phone locations without a warrant, and in defiance of 3 Court orders against the practice, apparently for the purpose of keeping us safe from terrorism, etc. (I see that since then, that 4th Court decision is now allowing this within its jurisdiction) (×138909)

    3 – conflicts between the different branches of government that can involve the Police… In 2007 there was a huge standoff between the Congress and the President where the Congress threatened to arrest some presidential advisors for contempt of Congress, and the President threatened to order the Federal Marshalls to not enforce the congressional order for arrest. (

    What do you suggest that a good Policeman do in situations such as these?


    • IB:

      You raise some very important and challenging points! I am often asked these types of questions when conducting training on the Dynamic of Authority. In fact, questions like these led me to develop the Dynamic of Jurisdictions to give guidance in dealing with authorities that are out of line. Let me make three very important points:

      1) It’s NEVER right to do wrong. If an authority directs you to violate a clearly established moral or legal principle, you are under no obligation to obey. There is, however, a way to respectfully disobey. You can be disobedient in action and still submissive in attitude…

      2) All human authority is delegated. Therefore you can appeal to a higher authority. In the case of the Fugitive Slave Act, you can make the argument that the police were appealing to the higher authority of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Natural Law, and God’s revealed moral principles. It’s the same argument our Founders used in justifying the American War for Independence as a rebellion against the authority of King George.

      3) All authorities have defined limits on their jurisdictions. An authority operating out of its jurisdiction is no authority at all, and therefore does not have to be obeyed. This is the situation you described in questions 2 and 3. The Constitution is the higher authority in both cases and sets out separation of powers, or jurisdictions. The court serves in an appellate capacity to review the actions of the police. They can impose sanctions after the fact for violations of court orders or laws. According to the Constitution, all executive power is vested with the President and all legislative power is vested in the Congress. There are checks and balances that, at least theoretically, keep them from encroaching on the jurisdiction of the other.

      I have addressed some of this in an earlier post called “Making an Appeal”. Much more could be said in regards to this issue and I will address it in detail in future posts.

      Thanks for reciprocating with your insightful comments and let’s stay in touch…

      Sheriff Ray

      BTW: You’ll probably like a post I just uploaded on “The Proper Exercise of Authority” that Chief Barney Barnes wrote and allowed me to publish…

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